Original Research

Predictors of low antiretroviral adherence at an urban South African clinic: A mixed-methods study

Connor P. Bondarchuk, Nwabisa Mlandu, Tasneem Adams, Elma de Vries
Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine | Vol 23, No 1 | a1343 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajhivmed.v23i1.1343 | © 2022 Connor Preston Bondarchuk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 October 2021 | Published: 10 February 2022

About the author(s)

Connor P. Bondarchuk, Department of Medicine, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America
Nwabisa Mlandu, Division of Neuropsychology, Faculty of Humanities, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Tasneem Adams, Cape Town Metro Health Service, Western Cape Department of Health, Cape Town, South Africa
Elma de Vries, Cape Town Metro Health Service, Western Cape Department of Health, Cape Town, South Africa; and, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa


Background: Low adherence to antiretroviral treatment (ART) in people living with HIV (PLHIV) remains a critical issue, especially in vulnerable populations. Although ART is responsible for greatly reducing the mortality and morbidity associated with HIV, low treatment adherence continues to impact the effectiveness of ART. Considering that a high level of adherence to ART is required for the excellent clinical outcomes with which ART is often associated, understanding the complex contextual and personal factors that limit high levels of treatment adherence remains paramount. Poor adherence remains an issue in many South African communities many years after the introduction of ART.

Objectives: Our study sought to understand the specific factors and the interactions among them that contribute to non-adherence in this patient population in order to devise successful and contextually appropriate interventions to support ART adherence in PLHIV.

Methods: This mixed-methods study employed a study-specific questionnaire (N = 103) and semi-structured interviews (N = 8) to investigate the factors linked to non-adherence at the Heideveld Community Day Centre in Cape Town, South Africa.

Results: Over half (57.3%) of participants were ART non-adherent. Non-adherence was correlated with younger age, negative self-image and a low belief in the necessity of ART (P < 0.05). In patient interviews, alcohol use, treatment fatigue and stigmatisation emerged as contributors to suboptimal adherence.

Conclusion: The results suggest that there remains a need for context-sensitive interventions to support PLHIV in South African communities. Future research needs to ensure that these targeted interventions take these factors into consideration.


treatment adherence; antiretroviral therapy; mixed methods; HIV stigma; discrimination; health access


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Crossref Citations

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